Staff Directory 6370584

Mark Craig

Reporter/Columnist | Vikings/NFL
Phone: 612-673-7011

Mark Craig has covered college or pro football for 27 of his 31 years as a sports writer at the Canton (Ohio) Repository (1987-99) and Star Tribune. He is in his 24th season of covering the NFL. He is one of the 48 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   


A native of Northeast Ohio, Craig covered the Cleveland Browns from 1991 until they left for Baltimore in 1995. When they returned as an expansion team in 1999, Craig left to cover Gophers football for the Star Tribune. He co-authored two books on the Browns and is the author of the Vikings book "100 Things Vikings Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."
Recent content from Mark Craig
Eric Wilson (50) celebrated one of his three interceptions last season.

Former Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson joins the Eagles

The free agent agreed to a one-year, $3.25 million deal in Philadelphia, where he will again be teammates with safety Anthony Harris
Nick Vigil

First, rodeo, then football for new Vikings linebacker Nick Vigil

Vigil was 10 years old when his mother determined that a career in football was a safer option for her rodeo-loving sons.
Jeff Gladney

Vikings cornerback Gladney accused of assaulting woman in Texas

A Dallas TV reported that the woman said Jeff Gladney struck her "with closed fists, causing pain in the side of her ribs, in the stomach and the back, and hitting her with an open hand across the head."
Even though injuries clobbered last year’s defense, Mike Zimmer’s postseason assessment also revealed the need for some schematic changes he plans

Rejuvenated by new defensive talent, Zimmer looking ahead to changes

The Vikings have signed six free agents, all defenders, and head coach Mike Zimmer is ready to make some schematic changes for the 2021 season.
Injured Danielle Hunter (99) watched a practice during training camp in August.

Zimmer isn't concerned about Hunter's injury or contract

In his first news conference since January, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer also expressed support for the offensive line and new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak
Browns super fan “Big Dawg,” aka John Thompson, walked across the deserted field at Cleveland Stadium after the Browns’ 26-10 victory over the C

Keenan McCardell was one of the last of the original Browns

The new Vikings receivers coach still vividly remembered the team's final days in Cleveland before it left to become the Baltimore Ravens.
Keenan McCardell joins the Vikings after spending the past four seasons coaching the Jaguars, one of the many teams he played for during his long NFL

Vikings receivers coach McCardell knows all about perseverance

On the NFL: A no-quit mentality kept driving Keenan McCardell as a player, and now as a coach.
FILE - Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) follows a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in

Offseason approaches of Vikings' NFC North brethren run the gamut

On the NFL: They're aggressive in Detroit, quiet in Green Bay, maybe a little lost in Chicago.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman

Vikings lose draft pick, executives fined for salary-cap violation

Three team executives were also fined for a violation related to practice squad player's contract in 2019.
Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Vikings this week.

Dalvin Tomlinson is Vikings' 'big prize' in free agency, GM says

General Manager Rick Spielman said the run-stuffing defensive tackle was the team's No. 1 target.
Unlike previous offseasons, coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots are ponying up big money to attract free agents.

Patriots open their wallets and make a splash in free agency

On the NFL: Bill Belichick and New England added two high-priced tight ends, a departure from the team's usual way.
Packers center Corey Linsley.

Mark Craig's 10 NFL free agents to target

The market for NFL players opens this week.
A major domino in the NFL this offseason has yet to fall in Sam Darnold, the Jets quarterback who was drafted third overall in 2018. The Jets seemingl

In the NFL, a quarterback scramble is about to begin

This week's official start of free agency is expected to bring an unprecedented shuffling of starting quarterbacks via free agency, trades and the draft.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) talking to some of his receivers during the Dec. 20 game against the Bears.

Spielman makes it clear: 'Kirk Cousins is our quarterback'

Rick Spielman reaffirmed Cousins' status on the team and gave updates on Danielle Hunter and Michael Pierce in a wide-ranging news conference.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady celebrated one of his three touchdown passes in the Super Bowl win over the Chiefs.

How Brady's 'fast-twitch' brain led the Bucs to a championship

On the NFL: After a slow start, the 43-year-old quarterback found his rhythm in a balanced game plan to earn a seventh Super Bowl ring.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87), left, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrate together after winning the Sup

Brady, Buccaneers defense dominate Kansas City in 31-9 Super Bowl victory

Tom Brady, the greatest of all-time, beat the Patrick Mahomes, the greatest of this time, with a ton of help from one of the grandest team defensive performances in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl coaches Reid, Arians are cut from the same cloth

Super Bowl coaches Reid, Arians are cut from the same cloth

Andy Reid and Bruce Arians are in control but not controlling. Patient, yet aggressive. Teachers, not screamers. Leaders who are comfortable in their own wrinkled skin.
Vikings defensive end celebrated after sacking Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in a 2009 game.

Former Vikings defensive end Allen falls well short of NFL Hall of Fame vote

Pass-rushing standout Jared Allen was eliminated in January's first round of cuts. Five modern-era players made it, including Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes after the Chiefs defeated the 49ers in last year’s Super Bowl.

Mark Craig's Super Bowl preview and prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City

Will Kansas City win back-to-back titles? Or will Tom Brady win his seventh championship at 43? And what impact could be made by the former Gophers in the game?
Tom Brady is playing his first Super Bowl without Bill Belichick as his coach.

In Brady vs. Belichick debate, Bucs defense would like a word

The quarterback and his Patriots coach complemented each other well. But Tom Brady and Tampa's defense are in this together too.
Associated Press file photos

'Man, it's crazy.' Ex-Gophers Winfield, Johnson on a Super surreal journey

Somewhere in Minneapolis, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck had to be thinking of splicing together all the "crazies" for a Ski-U-Mah recruiting infomercial.
Eric Bieniemy was assistant head coach and running backs coach for the Vikings.

Super Bowl LV players, coaches with Minnesota connections

From Tom Brady to Tom Moore, there are several players and coaches in Super Bowl LV with Minnesota ties.
The Chiefs are 38-10 and potentially back-to-back Super Bowl winners with Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Bieniemy will be an NFL head coach, but when?

The Chiefs' Eric Bieniemy, despite all his success success, inexplicably remains a candidate for an NFL head coaching job rather than locking up a position.
Offensive lineman Mike Remmers played with the Vikings from 2017 to 2018 and on Sunday will start for the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Ex-Vikings lineman Remmers tries putting a bad Super Bowl behind him

Five years ago, offensive tackle Mike Remmers had a Super Bowl to forget protecting Cam Newton. Now he is starting on Kansas City's banged-up line in front of Patrick Mahomes.
Tom Moore, right, with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning at a Super Bowl practice in 2010.

At age 82, ex-Minnesota assistant Moore back at Super Bowl with Bucs

Owatonna native Tom Moore, who coached for the Gophers and Vikings, is seeking a fourth championship ring in his sixth decade of coaching.
It might not be flashy, but Tom Brady uses his 43-year-old legs for balance and quick releases.

With Brady in another Super Bowl, an ode to the NFL's pocket passers

Tom Brady keeps the torch lit for the classic pocket passer, a dying breed in a sport whose evolution has changed the position from the grassroots up through the college game and on to the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers likely will win his third MVP, but he walked off the field after a Packers loss in the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time.

Rodgers sends the Packers a message with his 'uncertain' comments

On the NFL: It is unlikely quarterback Aaron Rodgers is going anywhere, but his sense of urgency was clear after Green Bay's loss in the NFC Championship Game.
Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Billy Turner, , son of former Vikings running back Maurice Turner, is the current blind side protector of likely th

Mounds View grad Turner is one Packer you can pull for on Sunday

Billy Turner will start at left tackle for the top-seeded Packers in Sunday's NFC Championship Game against Tom Brady and the No. 5 seed Buccaneers.
Will Patrick Mahomes play Sunday against the Bills?

Mark Craig's NFL conference championship preview and picks

A trip to Super Bowl LV in Tampa is on the line Sunday for the Chiefs, Bills, Packers and Buccaneers.
After beating the Saints on Sunday, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is in his 14th conference title game.

Brady is back in a conference title game, and turnovers tell the tale

The Buccaneers are 10-0 this season when winning the turnover battle. Then again, so are the Packers ­
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in touchdowns, passer rating and completion percentage.

Rodgers, Packers begin their playoff pursuit

Top-seeded Green Bay, with the NFL's highest-scoring offense, faces the Rams' No. 1 defense in a divisional playoff game Saturday.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman at the scouting combine last February.

Vikings GM Spielman loses 'sounding board' as Paton departs

The general manager doesn't expect major front office changes after his assistant was hired by the Broncos.
Drew Brees and Tom Brady will face off in the first playoff meeting between two quarterbacks 40 or older.

Mark Craig's NFL divisional round preview and picks

The young quarterback stars of the AFC and the old guard in the NFC are on display in this weekend's playoff games.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd (left) and the top-ranked Rams defense face another tough playoff test Saturday against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rod

Marquee QBs ready to claim Super Bowl; Rams ready to blow them up

The Rams have something the seven other playoff teams don't: The NFL's No. 1 scoring defense, which could come in handy when facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers
Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has known for months he would replace Kevin Stefanski as Browns coach in the event of a positive COVID-1

Browns enter playoffs with a deep Vikings connection

Eleven who coached or played in Minnesota helped end Cleveland's postseason drought.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson

Ravens' Jackson tries to make his mark in the NFL playoffs

Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson is 0-2 in the postseason and on Sunday faces Tennessee, which upset the top-seeded Ravens last year.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen leads the NFL’s No. 2 scoring offense.

Mark Craig's NFL playoff preview and picks

With an extra playoff team in each conference, wild-card weekend now features six games.
Jared Allen in 2013.

Former Viking Allen is finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jared Allen, the former Vikings defensive end standout, joins Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson among the list of 15 finalists.
Vikings receiver Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter of a loss to Tennessee in September.

With NFL's playoff parity, Vikings are again on the outside looking in

On the NFL: Every year since 1990, at least four teams have made the playoffs that didn't the year before. And the Vikings are a model for postseason inconsistency.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) crossed the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown during the second half Sunday.

Cousins at his best? The record says mediocre

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is 51-51-2 in his career, and his top statistics came in games he didn't win.­
Mike Zimmer’s defense allowed 29.7 points per game this season.

Mark Craig's Five Extra Points from Vikings-Lions

The Vikings' defense finished third-worst in team history in points allowed and last in sacks.
Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers in front of pack in MVP race

On the NFL: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has compiled the stats this season to collect his third MVP award.
Vikings videographer Andrew McCarthy had an entire section to himself as he watched the team warm up as they prepared to play Chicago

A big, empty feeling: 15 pivotal moments in the Vikings' 2020 season, ending with no playoffs

When the 2020 moments add up, the sum is unfulfilling for the Vikings. They are 6-9 heading Sunday's finale against the Lions, assured of their first losing record since 2014 and a third-place finish in the NFC North.
Lions running back Adrian Peterson

AP hoping to climb career touchdowns list against Vikings

Adrian Peterson has scored 123 touchdowns while reaching the end zone against every NFL team except the 49ers, Ravens, Jets, Colts and his old team, the Vikings.
Vikings kicker Dan Bailey

Vikings kicker Bailey refuses to blame back injury for recent misses

After sitting out practice Wednesday and Thursday, Dan Bailey was limited Friday and is hopeful he'll be able to kick Sunday.
Will Daniel Jones and the Giants become the NFL’s first division champion with double-digit losses?

Mark Craig's Week 17 NFL picks against the spread

The NFC East champion will be determined in the last game of the day, and six other playoff spots are up for grabs Sunday.
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson returned to his home state to play the Saints on Friday.

Vikings' Jefferson meets his goals, and then some

The rookie receiver wanted 1,000 yards, six touchdowns and 60 catches this season. He's blown past those and is eyeing more team records.
Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff during the Dec. 20 game against the Bears.

Vikings place Reiff on COVID-19 list ahead of season finale

The left tackle had played every offensive snap this season, but could still be available for Sunday's game in Detroit.
Trevor Lawrence of Clemson should be the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Wait, an early (partial) mock draft? Vikings take who??

The Jaguars won the Tank For Trevor competition as the top 13 (or is it bottom 13?) take shape.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers smiled before last weekend’s game vs. the Panthers.

Packers' Aaron Rodgers enjoying third season with 40 touchdown passes

Once upon a time, throwing for 40 touchdowns in a season was unheard of; now the Green Bay star has two more games to add to his total.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook ran past Saints linebacker Demario Davis during Friday’s game in New Orleans.

Sitting Dalvin Cook for season finale looks like best strategy for Vikings

The Vikings should make sure their injury-prone star running back is ready for 2021 by not playing him in a meaningless finale.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.

Mark Craig's Week 16 chart: Dalvin Cook

With a career-high 1,918 yards from scrimmage, Dalvin Cook's NFL-leading total will finish second in Vikings history behind only Adrian Peterson's 2,314 in 2012.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has played two games in five days since returning from 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Mark Craig's five extra points: Let's not play an 18-game schedule, OK?

The Vikings' Christmas Day debacle is another example of how utterly decimated a roster can look by late December.
Justin Jefferson celebrated his first NFL touchdown, a 71-yard reception against Tennessee on Sept. 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Jefferson brings the swagger to Rookie of the Year competition

When asked to name the league's best receiver, Justin Jefferson's smile comes alive as he leans forward and proclaims, "Me! Me! I got to go with me!"
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

Justin Jefferson's case for Offensive Rookie of the Year

A look at some of the candidates for the award with two weeks left in the NFL regular season.
Jarvis Landry and the Browns are part of the NFL’s best division.

Mark Craig's Week 16 NFL picks against the spread

The AFC North has a league-high 33 wins. Will the division add four more this weekend?
Vikings left tackle Riley Reiff helps quarterback Kirk Cousins get up after he was sacked against the Jaguars Dec. 6.

Looking ahead to the NFL draft? Vikings' biggest need is obvious

The Vikings can use help on the defensive line, but GM Rick Spielman can't take his eye off the most important hole to fill.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure Monday against the Bengals.

Mark Craig's Week 16 NFL power rankings

What is going on in Pittsburgh? Plus, where are the Vikings after their loss to the Bears?
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins after fumbling on a sack in the second quarter against the Bears.

Mark Craig's Five Extra Points: Plenty to see here, Dalvin

Kirk Cousins holding the ball too long and pair of fourth-and-1 plays haunted the Vikings in the loss.
Safety Kamren Curl and Washington are on a run, winning four in a row.

Mark Craig's Week 15 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL Insider predicts an NFC East team will reach .500 — and the Vikings will come out ahead in what is essentially a playoff game.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Bailey (5) celebrated after he kicked a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter.

Questions about the kicking: Zimmer repeats a two-word answer

In a short, terse video conference on Wednesday morning, the Vikings coach didn't offer much insight into kicker Dan Bailey's status.
Bears kicker Cairo Santos had a big day in Houston, and has made 18 consecutive field goal tries.

Vikings-Bears rarity: A late-season game with meaning for both teams

Chicago has rebounded — and has a reliable kicker —as the two teams meet in Sunday's "must-win" game between teams with 6-7 records.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

Kirk Cousins was first impressed by Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVI — 18 years ago

Tom Brady's first Super Bowl victory made a lasting memory for a seventh grader in Michigan.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins

Mark Craig's Week 14 chart

Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have had three or more consecutive games with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdown passes in a single season.
Quarterback Tom Brady says he loves the Bucs and is still learning about his teammates: “No one is going to give us anything. It’s up to us to ear

Buccaneers' Tom Brady still wants to keep improving

The 43-year-old quarterback hopes the Buccaneers' bye week helps his team and him as they prepare to play host to the Vikings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson celebrates with quarterback Tom Brady (after Johnson caught a 2-yard touchdown pass against the Green

Now playing with Brady, North High's Johnson a G.O.A.T. in his own right

Tampa Bay rookie Tyler Johnson, of Minneapolis North and the Gophers, has 10 catches for 118 yards and has been shut out the past three games. But among his catches are two of Tom Brady's NFL-record 569 touchdown passes.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks won’t go 0-for-New Jersey, will they?

Mark Craig's Week 14 NFL picks against the spread

Our NFL insider is flipping a lot of coins this week to choose winners
The Vikings’ Cameron Dantzler (27) was the first cornerback to record an interception this season in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars.

Vikings are finding it tough to win turnover battle this season

The offense already set a high for turnovers for a Zimmer team, and the defense has only 17 takeaways so far.
Quarterback Alex Smith and Washington handed the Steelers their first loss of the season on Monday.

Mark Craig's NFL Week 14 power rankings

Thanks to Washington, the words "2020" and "Perfect Season" never need to be spoken in the same breath again.
Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler celebrated after he recovered a fumble by Jacksonville receiver Chris Conley in the fourth quarter.

Dantzler stings Jaguars, jabs Vikings back to life in victory

Vikings rookie Cameron Dantzler, aka "The Needle," made an interception, forced a fumble and recovered one in Sunday's win over Jacksonville.
Kirk Cousins shielded the ball as he was dropped by defensive end Dawuane Smoot (94) in overtime on one of the Jaguars’ season-high four sacks.

Mark Craig's five extra points from Vikings-Jacksonville

Five takeaways from Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says he pursues improvement, not the playoffs. Goal achieved. The Vikings started 1-5 but are 4-1 since.

Vikings appear to be the 5-6 team with best chance to reach the playoffs

The expanded 14-team NFL postseason gives teams with a losing record hope of playing into January.
Will the Lions be celebrating a win without Matt Patricia on Sunday?

Mark Craig's Week 13 NFL picks against the spread

Who will emerge from the "showdown" between the Lions and Bears? And which 5-6 team is the best? (Hint: it's not the Vikings.)
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell last season. Bevell was promoted to interim coach after the Team fired Matt Patricia last week.

Lions give Darrell Bevell chance to show he can be NFL head coach

The longtime NFL offensive coordinator is running the show in Detroit following Matt Patricia's firing.
Adam Thielen of the Vikings was pushed out of bounds by Dallas’ Anthony Brown in a game Nov. 22 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Back from being a fan, Thielen ready to play Sunday

Sidelined by a positive COVID test, Adam Thielen's self-described "weird" week included watching from his living room as the Vikings beat Carolina on a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes.